A Book on Preaching the Song of Songs

picJust finished Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s, The Song of Solomon: An Invitation to Intimacy in the Preaching the Word series from Crossway (2012).  This 183-page book consists of an introductory message covering 1:1 and then nine more actual sermons on the Song of Solomon (each about 10-12 pages long).

This book of messages is very well-researched and this is its number one strength.  O’Donnell’s ten messages cover 118 pages.  And while endnotes normally drive one a tad nutty, they were much appreciated in this endeavor and cover another 35 pages!   His first chapter which is really an introduction to the Song (and which is very good) has 53 notes alone.

O’Donnell is to be commended for not shying away from most of the difficult texts of the Song such as 4:1—5:1—although he goes only so far in unpacking the metaphors in the more erotic 7:1—10. After explaining thighs and bellies (7:1b; 2b), he leaves the rest of the imagery (“navel”) to be figured out by his hears (101).  One can hardly blame the preacher.

It may sound strange for one who loves Jesus to suggest that he is not in this book of the Bible by interpretation or application. But a literal interpretation should lead to a literal application. However, this is not always the case for O’Donnell and this creates one weakness in this book: O’Donnell’s Christological lens.  While he recognizes the literal interpretation of the text, he often allows dubious connections to create contemporary application.  For instance in 8:5, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning on her beloved?” From the word “leaning” in the text, O’Donnell first mentally connects to the hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and then links by only one word to “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” (John 13:23 KJV) and then jumps to this application: “The way Christians are to lean upon Jesus is similar to the way a wife is to lean upon her husband” (113).  While I agree that all Christians should “lean on Jesus,” unfortunately, hermeneutically, “one can hardly get there from here.”

For those interested in a study of the Song or attempting to preach it, the book is not the final word but it is a first one, (at least on preaching this OT hard text) and a good one at that.

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